For the past few years, this particular parsonage was loaned to a para-church ministry as a sort of halfway house for families coming out of extremely difficult situations more commonly associated with Utah. The residents were overwhelmed with life, had little understanding of property maintenance, and were afraid of outsiders who might have been equipped to help. In the end, the old the parsonage didn't receive the care it needed.
My wife cried when we first inspected the house. "How could anybody live here?" she questioned.; "How are we going to live here?" The place was a mess. Missing tile in the bathroom allowed water to feed mold behind the bathroom walls. The jammed garbage disposal housed food from weeks before. Many drawers and cabinet doors were falling apart and the hardware was missing. The sewer was flooding into the basement. The carpets hadn't been vacuumed in months, maybe years. The stove didn't work. And as we peeled back one layer of mess, we would discover even more brokenness, even more stains, even more stench. We tried to open the blinds, but most were inoperative, keeping the house in a continual state of darkness. One friend who helped us clean suggested a solution: "Light a match. Drop it. Walk away."
As we got to work, we witnessed the Body of Christ in action. People came to help us clean. A brother who works for Behr commanded an army from the church as we painted the entire house with paint God provided. A believer is creating a stained-glass window for the front door and still another brother who installs glass is going to put it in. Mold removal and carpet cleaning were offered by another member of the body. People have helped remove trash and move appliances. The bathroom was ripped out by a guy who occasionally attends our Sunday services and many among our church family are praying for him as we hope to see his life radically transformed by Christ. Two brothers from another local church rebuilt the bathroom and another guy from a neighboring church is looking at replacing part of the flooded carpet, and maybe patch some stains in another room. God provided us with nearly new appliances and the church purchased another.
When I cut down the blinds light flooded into the house. "Just having light shining in here makes a huge difference," my wife proclaimed. So it is with us. Our natural state is worse than this house. In our sin, we are broken, messy, and stinky. The stuck blinds of our life keep the Light out. And just as the parsonage couldn't fix itself, we too are deteriorating more and more as time marches on, unable to restore ourselves. As layers of our life are peeled back, more messes are exposed, more brokenness discovered. Enter the gospel.
It's recorded in John 14:16-17 that Jesus said, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, who the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you" (ESV). A common thought among the world is that before the Holy Spirit is willing to dwell in us, we have to fix ourselves up. That's not what the Bible says, but many try anyway. Others think they are beyond hope. "Light a match," they cry. But hope is found in Christ. He alone is the carpenter of our salvation. In our brokenness we are able to see the gospel for what it is!
As we watched the parsonage be redeemed by God, through his grace, at the hands of his people, we noticed an iron "B" on the chimney. (I've learned is was there when the church bought the house over 50 years ago.) Around the dinner table we talked about the redemption of the parsonage, the gospel, and our desire to use this gift from God to shine Christ's Light into dark places. I decided we should name the parsonage, and we remembered the "B." Feeling very encouraged, we shared some ideas.
In the book of Acts is the account of a man who traveled with Paul to plant churches and shine the Light of Christ in dark places. It is said that he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and many were added to the Lord because of his faithfulness (Acts 11:24). He equipped Paul for ministry (Acts 11:25-26). His name means son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). And his name starts with a B. We had our name: The Barnabas House. May our season in the parsonage live up to such a name!